As global economic troubles continue, cuts in global health funding from the US government and other bilateral donors may signal the conclusion of an era of rapid growth.
Despite dire predictions in the wake of the economic crisis, donations to health projects in developing countries appear to be holding steady, new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington disclosed on Wednesday.
The new findings formed part of the fourth annual edition of IHME financing series on the theme: “Financing Global Health 2012: The End of the Golden Age?”
The report tracked development assistance for health from government aid agencies, multilateral donors, and private foundations and charities.
It explored funding trends over three periods: the “moderate-growth” period from 1990 to 2001, the “rapid-growth” period from 2001 to 2010, and the “no-growth” period from 2010 to 2012.
After reaching a historic high of $28.2 billion in 2010, development assistance for health dropped in 2011 and recovered in 2012. The strong growth in spending from the GAVI Alliance and UNICEF counterbalanced declines in health spending among other donors.
The Director of IHME and report co-author Dr. Christopher Murray said there were predictions that the sky was going to fall on global health funding, but that did not happen, adding “Only time can tell whether the stagnation will continue, but the global health community needs to be prepared either way.”
He noted that fluctuation in funding and the variance in global burden of disease highlighted the need for policymakers to stay informed with the most accurate information available on the evolving global health landscape.”
Financing Global Health 2012 also analyzed health spending from governments in developing countries between 1990 and 2010.
According to the report, priority setting had become even more important as global health funding had flatlined with many donors being forced to re-evaluate funding decisions to adapt to a new global health landscape.
From 2011 to 2012, overall health spending channeled through government aid agencies dropped by 4.4 per cent. Development assistance for health from the United States, the largest donor, dropped by 3.3 per cent, and health funding from France and Germany declined by 13 per cent and 9.1 per cent, respectively.
Among the six largest bilateral donors, only donations from the UK and Australia increased from 2011 to 2012, the report noted.
Many developing countries with the highest disease burdens did not receive the most health funding. When comparing disease-specific funding and disease burden, such as malaria assistance versus burden of malaria, it became clear that certain countries received much less funding than one might expect.
The report cited for example the low-income countries like Burundi, Guinea, Mali, and Niger that were among the top 20 countries in terms of malaria burden, but were not among the top 20 recipients of malaria funding.
“For some diseases, there is a clear disconnect between funding and burden measured by both mortality and disability and these comparisons serve as a guide for policymakers to discuss, reassess, and improve upon their health spending,” IHME Assistant Professor Michael Hanlon explained.”
The report also explained that the Sub-Saharan African region received the largest share of health funding with a share of 8.1 billion dollars, or 28.7 per cent of total health funding in 2010.
Health funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and maternal, newborn, and child health continued to grow through 2010 and even at the peak of health funding from donors in 2010, the spending by governments on health in their own countries was 521 billion dollars, more than 18 times higher than total donor funding in the same year.